According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. teen birth rate for girls aged 15-19 declined 33% between 1991 and 2008, ultimately decreasing from 42.5 births per 1,000 girls in 2007 to 41.5 births per 1,000 girls in 2008.
Despite this rate reduction, teenage pregnancy continues to be a concern for parents, specially in the U.S. which ranks number 1 in the world, followed by Slovakia, Hungary, and New Zealand. The U.S. teen pregnancy rate is still 3 to 6 times higher than its European counterpart, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy website.
Causes Of Teenage Pregnancy
The causes identified for teenage pregnancy include, but are not limited to:
- Adolescent sexual behavior… According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29% of American teens feel pressure to have sex, with inhibition-reduction alcohol and drugs as encouraging factors
- Media influence… A study published in Pediatrics in 2016 found that teens exposed to sex content in magazines, movies, music, and television are more than twice likely to have sex than kids who aren’t
- Socioeconomic factors… Sociologist Mike A. Males revealed that the birth rate of white teens in Tulare County is 50%, whereas affluent Marin County’s is only 5%. Both are in California. Tulare has a 18% poverty line for Caucasians; Marin has a 5%
- Childhood environment… Studies have shown that children exposed to family strife, abuse, domestic violence, or youth coming from foster care are more likely to become pregnant than their peers
The Effects Of Teen Pregnancy
Raising a child presents enormous challenges to any mother, much more so when motherhood is embraced by a teenager. Some of the effects of teenage pregnancy and motherhood are:
- Health risks… According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, teen pregnancy is associated with pregnancy complications for the mother and low birth weight of the infant
- School withdrawal… Most pregnant teens drop out of school. Only 10-12% return to it, says a study by the Guttmacher Institute
- Social changes… Teen mothers must make radical lifestyle changes. The fun and carefree days are over, old friends no longer relate, and life turns into an previously unknown load of responsibilities
- Infant impact… Another study by Pediatrics suggests that the psychological development of the child may be restricted by teenage motherhood. According to the study, teen mothers are less likely to stimulate their infant through touching, vocalization, and smiling
- Public costs… According to a 2006 report by Dr. Saul Hoffman, teen pregnancy costs the American taxpayers $9.1 billion yearly, mainly linked to health and foster care
The Prevention Of Teenage Pregnancy
Finding the perfect prevention method to teenage pregnancy is not a cake walk for parents, society, or government. Some of the preventive measures promoted include:
- Abstinence education programs… The welfare reform law of 1996 created the Abstinence Education Program in the U.S. However, after spending more than $1.5 billion up to 2008, the program was heavily criticized as ineffective and its abstinence-only part was left out of the 2010 U.S. budget. Still, other federal, state, and private campaigns abound
- Comprehensive programs at school… The National School Boards Association has promoted programs that include support, education, tutoring, and recreation. These are aimed to foster resiliency among students on themes like connectedness, confidence, and character
- More parental involvement… Organizations like the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy encourage parents to get more involved, knowing where their teens are, what they are doing, and with who, addressing the sex topic candidly and frequently. Logical? Yes. Easy? No!
Helping a Pregnant Teenager
Many feelings draw together upon a pregnant teenager. Feelings of confusion, guilt, depression, anger, anguish, shame, and haplessness may result overwhelming to any adolescent. Parents or relatives of a pregnant teen must be absolutely supportive and understanding.
Once serenity has been reestablished, it’s the teen’s companions duty to ensure that she adopts all the lifestyle changes need during and after pregnancy. Basic health care provisions like not smoking, not alcohol drinking, eating right, and getting enough sleep ought to be closely monitored. Professional counseling and care must be attempted.
Having a baby is a wonderful gift of life. Parents’ worries, grief, disappointment, or embarrassment cannot be allowed to tarnish the experience for the adolescent mother-to-be. Although common, these feelings shouldn’t nurture the overall parental reaction towards the pregnancy.
Parents must recognize their feelings and deal with them, but If coping with their teen’s pregnancy becomes too much for both or either one of for them, they should seek professional counseling immediately, while keeping in perspective the well-being of their daughter and her baby.